"The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down." A. Whitney Brown.

About Us

My photo
San Juan Archipelago, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 750, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

24 November 2017


Steam tugs ROCHE HARBOR (L)
at Roche Harbor, San Juan Island, WA.

Undated photo collected by J. Williamson.
Photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
For tug ROCHE HARBOR admirer, Ron Burke.

"At twilight when nights swift approach lays shadows o're the waters,
We yearn for home and loved ones, our wives, our sons, and daughters.
Some sing a song of the open sea and a sailor's life Yo! Ho!
But set me down on a plot of ground with just a plain old hoe.

How we sweat our way to Panama; then pitched and tossed to Hilo.
We're Northbound now, but Lord only knows we may next depart for Rio.
We growl about our lot, of course; the old lube leak and the roast beef's horse.
And when the Skipper plots a course, that he comes out
where he wants to be, is a never-ending mystery.

The engine's worn; we should have sails; to us, the miles go by like snails.
We always get there, never fear, but it makes each week seem like a year.
The water's rusty, the bunks are hard, all cooks are fiends and
should boil in lard.

The mates! well anyway, when at last to her home pier the ship is fast,
Each one departs with a solemn vow, ne'er to return to that ol' scow.
But when the dawning's bright and clear, comes our fervent cry to the bossman's ear.
Are we sailing soon? Oh! why not now, and what's delaying us anyhow?"

Composed by William House. Piling Busters Yearbook. Seattle, WA. Mitchell Pub. 1951.

20 November 2017

❖ MOSQUITO MERWIN––Hauling the Gold Rushers ❖

(Left) W. K. MERWIN 1883-1900
ON 80959
On the Snohomish River.
108' x 22.5' x 4.2'
G.t. 229.08, N.t. 165.04
MAY QUEEN on right.
Original photo from the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©
This image appears in several PNW maritime books, also
with photographer unknown.

      "The W. K. MERWIN was built in Seattle in 1883, for Captain W. K. Merwin, who then sold her to the Washington Steamboat Co. She was assigned to the Olympia-Seattle run for a short time and then was switched to run the Skagit River, which served the rich agricultural towns of the region, under the command of Capt. Merwin. A disastrous collision with the railroad bridge in Mt. Vernon, 19 January 1896, wiped out all the upper works, including the pilothouse and Texas deck, which was reduced to kindling back to the smokestack.
      Repairs were made to the superstructure, after the accident, and the W.K. MERWIN was used for a few months on Puget Sound––then the old vessel was laid up to rot on the Snohomish River.
      The gold rush days of the Klondike brought on a demand for anything that would float so the MERWIN was prepared for a tow up the coast to St. Michael by the Moran Shipyards in 1897. One of the noticeable changes made in the vessel was the installation of public toilets the entire width of the upper deck abaft of the glass-enclosed saloon. She was encased from bow to stern in a wooden jacket to protect her against possible high seas en route. The stack and the wheel were removed and stowed on deck. 
      The steam tug RICHARD HOLYOKE took the W. K. MERWIN, the POLITKOFSKY, an old vessel which was filled with coal, and a small yacht, the BRYANT, and headed for Alaska with 16 passengers boarded up inside. These people were willing to do anything to reach the gold fields. The MERWIN's towline parted once en route when she encountered a terrific storm but the tug succeeded in getting a second line aboard. Capt. Tom Lyle was in charge of the MERWIN and eventually started her up the Yukon. They were forced into winter quarters in a blind slough at the Indian village of Nanook. Here they spent nine months icebound and still hundreds of miles from the gold fields.
      The MERWIN arrived in Dawson the end of June 1898, taking ten months and 20 days to make the trip from Seattle. On her next trip, she left Dawson on 4 July 1898, for a trip to St. Michael. Late in the season she again reached Dawson and was credited with bringing 50 tons of freight into the city on each trip.
      The Columbia Navigation & Trading Co was shown as her owners and as far back as 25 December 1897, that company was listing the name of the W. K. MERWIN as one of their boats in Seattle P-I ads soliciting freight and passengers for the trip up the Yukon to Dawson. 
      The W. K. MERWIN was then assigned to the upriver run, making a trip to White Horse Rapids before coming back down to Hootalinqua to lay up for the winter. This trip was almost her downfall as on her way back down river from the rapids she was trying to get by the sunken steamer JAMES DOMVILLE in Thirty Mile River and was driven against the hull almost wrecking the MERWIN. 
      She delivered 200 tons of freight to Dawson the following spring from her winter quarters. While wintering at this location, the Messrs. Hamilton, LeBlank, and McGrade bought the vessel. 
      The new owners elected to withdraw her from the upriver run because of the hazards of Five Finger Rapids and removed her steam capstan.
       The new owners had a change of heart about the need for a steam capstan because on 15 July 1899, they sent outside for a replacement. That year the MERWIN wintered in Dawson in 1900, where Alex McDonald chartered her to make a trip to Nome and arranged to have her fitted for ocean travel. By this time the excitement of the Dawson strike had died down and the new find of gold in Nome was the news of the day.
      The  W.K. MERWIN was poorly stocked with food for the trip and her 200 passengers soon lowered the supply to the danger point. The boat and her barge were so crowded that people had to stand up on the way, and they were forced to eat in shifts. At Circle City, they tried to stock up with provisions but the town had nothing to sell except whiskey so they took a 40-gallon keg aboard for the bar. Capt. R. A. Talbot disappeared at this point and the crews refused to work as they had not been paid. Finally, the MERWIN got on the way again and stopped at every trading post from then on but found not a thing for sale. The trip had started from Dawson on 31 May 1899, without replenishing the stock cleaned out the previous winter. The food shortage became so acute that the MERWIN resorted to stopping occasionally so passengers could try their luck at shooting ducks and geese and to gather eggs on the shore. Upon reaching St. Michael they found plenty of food.
      The W. K. MERWIN was wrecked on the beach at Nome during a storm on 2 August 1900. She was declared a total loss which was a sad ending for the oldest boat to be taken over the ocean route to the Yukon River. 
      As a special note of interest, Capt. Jack Green showed up in history for the first time as pilot of the W. K. MERWIN in June of 1899. Capt. Green went on to other vessels and was captain of the second steamer YUKON when its ill-fated crew lost their lives in the fall of 1918. They had finished a successful season on the river and were on their way to their homes on the outside, aboard the steamship PRINCESS SOPHIA which hit a rock south of Skagway and sank with all hands." 
Arthur E. Knutson. The Sea Chest Journal of the Puget Sound Maritime; Seattle, WA. March 1988. 

11 November 2017


ON 66840
She sailed under names: USRC BEAR, USCGC BEAR,
flags of 3 nations, U. K., U. S., and Canada.
The BEAR had a career of 89 years in Polar Seas
as a Revenue cutter, rescue vessel, war hero,
humanitarian, movie star, and floating museum.


When the dews and damps of a deep-laid hull
Have rotted my body and soul,
When the seas have washed atop of my rigging
And no more will I reach for the pole,
When the men who go down to the sea in ships
Have seen me no more in southland slips,
When the northland people have looked off to sea 
In vain o'er the floes for a sight of me
Only then is my voyaging done.

When the barking of seal in the sea of the mists
Is echoed by bulwarks of steel,
When the bowheaded monsters of Akutan Bay 
Dive low under the grey iron keel.
When my mainsail and jib and topgallant sheer
Are furled forever from wind and from sleet,
When the men of my crews are phantom-like men
Who will only walk when the dead come again,
Only then are my glories all won.

While the lay of my lines is trim with the sea 
And my freeboard is handsomely high,
While there's coal in my bunkers and sail on my spars
And my helm will steer full and by,
While the pole-seeking hunters each year sally forth
To battle the tides and packs of the north,
While they creak in the nips and freeze in the air,
On I must sail to relieve their despair
Ere my voyaging's done.

I am old I am mellowed with near hundred years
Since my cutwater turned to the sea,
And the sealer and whaler, Aleut, Esquimaux
Signalled or waited in anguish for me.
But now through my timbers there sighs age's breath
And soon I must sail to the cold port of death.
For I have a promise I know I must keep 
And it's waiting for me in the still, silent deep 
Now that my glories are won.

Courtesy, Comdr.  M. A. Ransom (USCG, ret.)
One of the most famous ships ever to work in the 
North Pacific, seen here in Seattle, WA.
Among the Seattle men who served aboard in the 
Arctic was Rear Adm. F. A. Zeusler.
Photograph by James A. Turner, Seattle, WA.
Undated original from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
(L-R) Captain Francis Tuttle with close
friend Robert Moran fishing on Orcas Island, WA.
Tuttle took command of the USRC BEAR in 1896-1898
during the difficult pelagic sealing years in the North Pacific.
He had just brought the BEAR home to Seattle when a
request came from Pres. McKinley to head back north
to try & save 265 whalers trapped in their boats
in the ice near Pt. Barrow. It was specified that only
volunteers should sign on because of the high danger involved.

Tuttle also commanded her 1900-1902 and 1906-1907.
The story of the lengthy Overland Relief Expedition can be found in
The Great Ice Ship BEAR by Polly Burroughs.

A model of the BEAR is on exhibit at the Coast Guard Museum
in Seattle, WA. A post to honor that builder can be seen on 
this site here
There is also another post on the BEAR written by journalist 
R.H. Calkins see here
The above photograph by James McCormick
is from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

aboard U.S.R.C. BEAR
Capt. Cochran served on the vessel
1914-1916, 1921-1924, and in 1926.

Original photo from the archives of 
the Saltwater People Historical Society©

06 November 2017


Moored at the Lk. Washington Shipyards at Houghton,
near Kirkland, was a fleet of forgotten ships,
once a prominent part of transportation on Puget Sound.
In this group are the old ferry WEST SEATTLE,
the HYAK, the MOHAWK, the TACOMA,
sternwheeler TOURIST, and the tug SEAL,
all veterans of Puget Sound routes.
The MOHAWK escaped the ship breaker's torch to
lead another short chapter as a tug on the Columbia River.
Original photo from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Scty.©
Click image to enlarge.

"What became of the ships of yesteryear?
      To what haven have disappeared the pleasure vessels that residents of Puget Sound country used to board for their Sunday excursions in the days before the automobile?
      One answer was at the Lake Washington Shipyards at Houghton, which became almost a graveyard for an obsolete or obsolescent craft that formerly proudly plied the waters of Puget Sound in a day that is gone.
     Victims of men's changing habits, changing whims, and political views and of mechanical progress, these once gay ships, formerly brightly painted and kept spic and span, were tied up, many of them apparently for the last time, with a few that were still in good condition, waiting new uses for which they were still fit.
      Not only the coming of the automobile, the motor truck, the new streamlined ferry and modern freight boat, has helped to consign these once fine ships to oblivion.
      The passing away of such social and economic theories as prohibition has also helped to put an end to the usefulness of some of the old steamers.
      Such was the City of Victoria, which in its heyday plied between Edmonds and Victoria, to carry thirsty passengers beyond the boundaries of the USA for week-end revelries where bootleggers did not flourish.
      Built in the gay nineties––in 1893 to be exact––at Sparrow Point, MD, the Victoria ran up and down the Chesapeake Bay for many years, until she was brought to Puget Sound for the Victoria run. Many a Seattleite will remember her and will recall pleasant voyages to a more liberal environment during the days before repeal in this steamer's elaborately decorated salons, with their scrolled woodwork and carved finishing, reminiscent of the period when she was first built. Now the City of Victoria wastes away in the wind and weather among her sister ships of another day. 
     The Indianapolis, which once cut the waves between Seattle and Tacoma, and came around the Horn from the Great Lakes before the Panama Canal was completed and before the AYP Exposition in Seattle, was tied up not far from the City of Victoria.
      Built in 1904 in Toledo, Ohio, the Indianapolis piled between Seattle and Tacoma for many years. She was converted later into a ferry and served on other Sound runs until the new diesel ferries put her in her place at last.
      There is the old Sol Duc, built in Seattle in 1912 for the run to Port Angeles. She was retired from service in 1935 after the Sound ferry strike, and after the motor truck had replaced her as a freight carrier, and the modern ferry boat had made her obsolete for the passenger trade.
      Others are the Hyak, once familiar to travelers across the Sound to Poulsbo and Liberty Bay, and the Kulshan, built in 1920 for the service between Seattle and Bellingham.
      Still serviceable for many purposes, but awaiting a buyer, was the sturdy little ship Mohawk (ex-Islander) that used to run from Seattle to the San Juan Islands. She was tied up at the shipyards since the ferry strike of 1935. In the similar case was the Atalanta, built in Tacoma in 1913 for service between that city and North Bay, Case Inlet and Longbranch, later familiar on the run to Whidbey Island. 
       Ghostliest of all the boats at the yard was the old Morning Star, a mere shell waiting for final disintegration. She was out of service for at least 20 years, but in her more prosperous times ran between Seattle and British Columbia points in the service of Frank Waterhouse.
      Others at the Lake WA yards include the old West Seattle ferry, the Oregon, once in the Alaska service, the Beeline and Airline, Quilcene, Comanche, the Washington of Everett, and the Einar Beyer of Wrangell." From the Seattle Times, 1938.


01 November 2017


ON 3270
Full-rigged, 2,156 G.t.–– 2,013 N. t.
244.2' x 43.2' x 18.2'
Crew of 25.
Built by Goss, Sawyer & Packard at Bath, ME, in 1883.

Photo back-dated 18 March 1925
Original photo from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society.©
Paul C. Morris, A Portrait of a Ship. Lower Cape Publishing Co., Orleans, Massachusetts, 1987.
Bibliography, index, 180 photographs, including four color images, 16 pen-and-ink drawings executed by the author as well as a painting of the BENJAMIN F. PACKARD on the dust jacket, book size 9 x 12.5-inches, 200 pages.

      "This fine book is one-of-a-kind for sailing ship historians, model builders, and armchair readers. One reason is that it contains probably the most complete set of photographs ever published about any full-rigged American sailing ship. The vessel is the 'Down easter' BENJAMIN F. PACKARD, that spent 17 years registered on Puget Sound. Morris' book is the life account of a true 'hell ship', one of the latter-day sailing ships, that did not have a good name among Cape Horn sailing ship men, primarily because of the way many of the captains and 'bucko' officers treated them.
      The PACKARD was a well-known vessel on Puget Sound, first as a lumber carrier, sailing from such ports as Port Blakely, Port Townsend, Bellingham, and Tacoma, and later as an Alaska salmon cannery ship sailing out of Seattle.
      The brutalities practiced aboard the PACKARD are recounted by the author from eye-witness accounts and presents a different picture of the days of 'wooden ships and iron men' than some of the romanticized accounts about the days of sail. Shanghaiing, deaths at sea, etc., are all documented in this well-written history of the BENJAMIN F. PACKARD.
      As a thorough photographic record of one of the last down-east square-riggers, A Portrait of a Ship is a must for readers of northwest maritime history covering the period of approximately 1890 to 1925. Moreover, direct quotes from the detailed correspondence of Sewall Company, the PACKARD's owners from 1887-1908, give an insight into the commercial aspects of operating a sailing ship."

The above review was written by historian Michael Jay Mjelde for The Sea Chest, quarterly membership journal of the Puget Sound Maritime Society, Seattle, WA. March 1988.
1925: BENJAMIN F. PACKARD was retired from cannery service of Booth Fisheries Co. 
      She was sold to Hansen & Nieder Lumber Co of Seattle & dispatched to the east coast where it was planned to use her as a coal barge. She was taken over by Theodore Roosevelt Pell of New York, who hoped to keep her afloat as a museum, and for a time she was moored at the foot of 129th Street, New York. 
      One of her longtime masters was Capt. A. A. Aas.

Archived Log Entries